Zhu Feng, Producer and Chief Editor ofWhisky Magazine, once had been in the music industry for a decade. His business included music publishing, concert and music media MTV. And he even had his own music company, as well as doing entertainment marketing company.
The reason he loves vinyl records is once had contact with it at a very young age. Zhu’s mother was working in China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation (CNPIEC). For the reason that China has strict control on importing audio and video products, only CNPIEC has legal rights to ‘import audio and video products’, so he had lots of opportunity to get touch with vinyl records. Though a number of families had vinyl record players at that time, the mainstream audio-video products were cheap Chinese-madefilm disks.
With the popularity of tape and CD, domestic vinyl record production lines were all shut down. Ever since then, vinyl records were seldom seen in the market. After the new millennium, every time Zhu goes abroad or travel to Guangzhou for business purposes, he buys some vinyl records but does not buy CDs. He regards vinyl as a culture lesson, reads many materials about it, and knows the whole developmental process of European and American music.
In 2008, Zhu opened the first ‘Whisky + Vinyl’ themed concept store called 33Zhuan. The store is located in a Hutong in Beijing and it’s formerly known as a toy store called Clockwork Monster owned by Peng Lei —- a tin toy enthusiastic.
Zhu told CMBN, “I think whisky and vinyl match each other well. Both of them have a sense of time. Whisky also needs time to precipitate, and listening to vinyl records is like visualized player, allowing you to see the flue of music. It’s like rings, one round following another.”
CMBN: What’s your favorite place for buying vinyl records? And which genre do you collect most?
Zhu Feng: There are lots of record stores in San Francisco, U.S.A. As long as I go there, I shop in local stores. The most frequently bought record isWe Are the World. When this song was released, I heard it in my relative’s house and fell in love with it. Later, I bought a dozen of different versions, in both album and single. I also like three early records of Michael Jackson. I bought them whenever I saw. I collected around 20 of them. But I hardly buy them now.
Once, Guangzhou has Taojie, Gangding, and an old book store called Houwu on East Gulou Street in Beijing are all good stores of vinyl.
Vinyl record is like a common language. As long as you like vinyl, no matter in a vinyl shop in any country, you will gradually be familiar with it. Costumers are talking about vinyl records. After chatting for some second, people will be familiar with each other. Then, they recommend you suitable records after referring to your age.
I also collect vinyl record player. I collect all kinds of interesting players and I have more than 100 old film copies. There were more than 10,000 vinyl records, 5,000 CD, and around 1,000 to 2,000 tapes in my home. Then I find a warehouse and also stored film copies in it.
CMBN: Have you ever considered how to use these records?
Zhu Feng: These records bring me pressure on the space. So, opening a store is a way to release. The ‘whisky + vinyl’ mode was relatively successful. Later, several shops also followed our mode.
This ‘vinyl whisky bar’ is a more advanced enjoyment. It can create a good enjoying atmosphere for people who love vinyl and even for people who love this feeling. But what behind it is that you must understand vinyl, whisky, as well as other life style to make it excellent.
I knew a foreigner who always bought two sets of vinyl records each time, and kept himself one. He later started a company to rent the other set of vinyl records. In fact, I once thought about this mode, but find the amount is not adequate.
CMBN: We knew some college students and young people who fell in love with vinyl and talking about it with some fans. What do you think of it?
Zhu Feng: College students are young group of the society. If they say they love vinyl record, I still question whether they love it long. I feel, for them, buying vinyl record is like fashion consumption. They feel it’s mysterious and cool for it turning on the player. Vinyl record player also looks cool and it is a good decoration in the house which improves the whole living environment.
But many people lack a deep understand towards vinyl records. However, it’s not too bad for vinyl is not a necessity. Though it’s charming and makes you feel special when using it.
Whenever I go abroad, I will go to record stores. It was vengeful consumption in the early period. But if young people start to love vinyl records, the market will definitely grow.
CMBN: What’s your opinion about vinyl culture?
Zhu Feng: Vinyl record is the only physical music carrier in the modern society. It’s a different music consumption, as well as a modern lifestyle consumption. Listening to vinyl record is relatively complex, but it also brings you happiness to spending some time having a cup of tea or whisky. In general, men are more interested in vinyl records. It seems that we like to spend time on something that’s boring to others. Most vinyl records that I collected are in the 60s and 70s Jazz, old rock, ole electronic. It was even not cheap at that time, but I value their sense of time, that could re-show that old times. Secondhand records are used, which have a different feeling from this.
Vinyl record has a history of more than a hundred years. In other countries, it reflects the whole music industry. It’s already mature. The most important reason for me to love vinyl records is that there is always something behind them that attracts me.
CMBN: Vinyl industry is becoming more popular these years. What do you think is relate with vinyl consumption?
Zhu Feng: Vinyl industry will not decline. There are always new comers. But contents are the most important thing. Vinyl records relate to material civilization other than spiritual civilization. When materials have developed to certain period, people started to play vinyl records and there came all detailed areas.
It has a production and consumption system just as player, audio, earphones, records, even related to other peripheral products. In the future, there might be leaders in each area, and have scale, in which way the whole system can be completed.
CMBN: Now, there are some companies who want to invest on vinyl record production line, and others want to open vinyl stores. How do think of investing on vinyl record?
Zhu Feng: To some extent, vinyl record means a small part of people. Even the time has changed, everyone can enjoy, it won’t develop to a large scale. In the future, if well developed, the production may reach more than one billion (not only records and players).
There is also another problem in China. Domestic publish requires auditing round after round, and oversea import also needs approval. Vinyl business is not easy.
Though there must be risks investing on vinyl records, the major one is that no one is cleat about the future market scale. Therefore, basic vinyl survival mode at present is opening small stores with a relatively fixed group. This group is relatively concentrated, and has strong and stable consumption capability, so small store mode can meet their needs.
Additionally, folk transaction activity is hot. Under this background, non-traditional product supply mode and groping under new thinking mode are more meaningful. I will have a try in this aspect.
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